Thursday, 3 September 2009

Is this true?

I like to pride myself on my historical knowledge or maybe I am just up myself, probably the latter. But upon reading Daniel Hannan's latest comment (I do have a soft spot for people who speak their mind and tell PC-Guardianistas to fuck of - shame on me) I found a very interesting comment in, lo and behold, the comment section and it reads as follows (I have edited it a bit but only the paragraphing not the content, also I assume the guy is American since he cannot spell 'honourable').

I have written this before. But now Daniel is writing about France’s envy of Britain, so I will write about this again.

I was a student in Paris as a teenager in one school year in the late 1960’s; and in a different year spent the summer in Paris. I spent no time in any other part of France, but Paris is where French policy is formed, so it is fair to consider “Paris” as “France.” I have been in France since then, but it is the time period of these first two times which is important.

In one of the stays I lived with a socialist working class family who took in foreign students because they needed the money. In the other stay, I lived with a very grand, titled right-wing family whose friends included several of the generals who were in prison for opposing de Gaulle on the surrender in Algeria. The two families, and their respective circle of friends, came from the two ends of the social and political spectrum. Additionally, the lessons in French school were written and taught by a third group of French adults. Less than 25 years after the end WWII, when the adults in both families, and some who wrote the textbooks and taught and many other adults I encountered had lived through the German occupation, they seemed to have few hard feelings towards the Germans (perhaps because Germany was split up into East and West and thereby suitably humiliated?), but were already anti-American and very dismissive of the British.

To read the history lessons, one would learn that de Gaulle and his legions of Free French were instrumental in defeating the Germans and liberating Paris. Nowhere was it mentioned that the Free French fighters numbered only in the thousands. Certainly nowhere was it mentioned that Vichy French fought with the Germans when the Allies, including the Free French, invaded German-held North Africa. Eisenhower, who probably didn’t eat escargot, kept meddling and getting in de Gaulle’s way. Churchill was a minor historical figure who hardly merited mention, certainly not as important to history as de Gaulle. French culture and style was what was important to the world and French culture had always been the envy of the world. And if we must talk about history, France had a great empire too (Never mind that they had just been kicked out of the biggest piece of it.) and they even had Napoleon. And in current world affairs, France under de Gaulle was the most important country in the world because he was somehow making France the buffer and negotiator for the rest of the world between the Soviets, who were quite sympathique, and the boorish Americans. If that sounds somewhat muddled - it was.

What I found inescapable in those years - aside from the anti-Americanism - was that the France appeared to deeply resent Britain for its place in world history and it stance in WWII, as opposed to the French non-stance. France may have had honorable and understandable motives to form a European Union to keep Germany tethered, but everything I saw and heard in my time in Paris in the 1960’s makes me believe that the motive towards Britain has always been to overcome a historic sense of inferiority, and especially shame about WWII. That means a dominant France and a humiliated and cowed Britain.

Other posters have commented on my “rants” about France. My “rants” are based on how upside down I saw history turned during those two stays in the 1960’s. I think the Brits would do well to understand what was germinating in Paris in that time period.

Anyone who is not old enough to have been in Paris in that time period may have a different view of French motivation, but they cannot dispute what I saw first hand at that time.

I am not sure what to say, can anyone offer any additional views or comments? Was anyone in Paris around 1960 - I for one was not born which rules me out. Admittedly this comment does echo scaremongering but that is only if it is incorrect. On the other who can really claim that the British love the French?

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